The LORD said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, for I consider you godly among this generation. 2 You must take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, the male and its mate, two of every kind of unclean animal, the male and its mate, 3 and also seven of every kind of bird in the sky, male and female, to preserve their offspring on the face of the earth. 4 For in seven days I will cause it to rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the ground every living thing that I have made.” 5 And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.(NET Bible)
“Perception is reality”—so the saying goes. Looking a little deeper, we find that the saying is true only when God is doing the perceiving. Human perception is far more unreliable; we tend to believe what we want to be true. Our perception is an actual perception, but that does not mean we are perceiving reality.
What would be the outcome of seeing more like God? What would have to change to make it so?
Peter tells us that God waited patiently while the ark was being constructed (1 Pet. 3:20), but the day finally comes for Noah and his family to gather to the safety of the great ship (Gen. 7:1). As part of an extended literary device called chiasmus, God sees Noah’s righteousness and the earth’s ruin:
A 6:9 Noah was righteous
B 6:11 The earth was ruined
B 6:12 God saw the earth was ruined
A 7:1 The Lord said . . . “you I have seen are righteous in this generation.”
The most common Hebrew verb for “seeing” runs like a thread through the early chapters of Genesis. God sees things clearly (1:4; 1:9; 1:10; 1:12; 1:18; 1:21; 1:31; 6:5; 6:12; 7:1). Eve (3:6) and the sons of God (6:2) see in a twisted way that leads to the ruin of the entire world.
Jesus contrasted these two ways of seeing in Matthew 6:22–23: “The eye is the lamp of the body. If then your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
Genesis 7:2–3 provides for the future sacrifice of clean animals by calling for additional numbers of them. Further, the clean/unclean distinction paves the way for a long-term practice. Wenham says, “It is characteristic of Gen. 1–11 to trace back the fundamental religious institutions to primeval times.”
The grammar of Genesis 7:4 makes it crystal clear that God is personally causing the rain to fall and flood the earth. God is never one to put off the responsibility on someone else or onto natural causes. Those who want to reduce the flood to a natural or limited phenomenon must ignore the Bible’s plain statements.
In addition, we may learn lessons on interpreting the Bible by considering the contextual meaning of God’s statement: “I will wipe from the face of the ground every living thing that I have made” (Genesis 7:4b). Plainly, Noah and his household fall into that class, but they will be saved rather than destroyed. This fact reminds us that Bible verses may be ripped from their original context and given a meaning that is unsupportable when studied in that context. Whenever a Bible student is offered a verse reference to prove something, that reference should be read along with the materials before it and after it to ensure it is being used according to its actual meaning.
God’s stated intentions also imply that anyone who tried to imitate Noah by using a ship to escape the flood was not allowed by God to succeed; perhaps the outcome was as simple as running out of food and water because the flood was not over for a year. Noah had been told to gather food for the duration (Gen. 6:21). We are not given unnecessary details.
The lesson of Genesis 7:5 is clear: obey God and live!
Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.